"No Doy"

As far as I can tell, this article could have just as easily been published twenty years ago, at least (via the still-magical here).

Unfortunately, I don't have time for a long post.

I don't think that when I was reading the New York Times as a teenager that I was part of the audience that those writing for the Times thought they were writing for, if only because those writers provided me with information that lead me towards having certain beliefs that they themselves would probably not have wanted me to hold at that time in my life. Namely, that higher education was bullshit.

I distinctly remember reading, somewhere around 1999 or 2000, in the year I took off between high school and college, an article about the things that parents were doing to secure places for their children at America's top schools. And those things were pretty disgusting. Though not actually. The things being done were good, but the end towards which another matter. Like.

An example: sending your teenager on a "peace mission" to Africa to "help communities" "over there". And all. I'm being pretty vague here, yes. But maybe you see the picture already. A bunch of rich kids going to Namibia ostensibly to build houses but probably to party with other rich kids at night. And even if they didn't, still. I don't think my parents had that kind of money lying around. Or did yours? And even then, even if it didn't cost that much, even if the idea of community service that only some people can afford to provide being used as a resume-builder on a college application doesn't quite get you, well, then, at least, the core issue. Well first, the article does mention how children are being forced to compete for status earlier and earlier in their lives, how meritocracy is me first, but does the author quite tie it together? Maybe I missed it, so I will. People, specifically children, are being taught to view good deeds in purely instrumental, self-advancing terms. And schools are rewarding this behavior with big, thick envelopes. Corruption begins at home.

And can't you just picture Chet, having gone to Africa at 17 to build a schoolhouse, at 25 landing a job at some big-time NGO helping developers tear that same schoolhouse down or advising local government officials that continuing to provide free education in that schoolhouse is economically unfeasible? Oh, madame, sir, I can easily picture that, and of course the money shot, the job interview whereby Chet cheerfully leverages his past for his future, "Oh you've already been to Namibia?" (Chet smiles broadly).

So already me and higher education were off to a pretty bad start before I even went (and the bad grammar in the first part of this sentence is purposeful, jerk). I'll admit some of it was petulant, childish, and that I was a snob. My whole "ideas first" principle just as much pretense. But I did believe, or at least I believed I believed. I wouldn't know myself well enough to know why else I was really miserable then until later. Though, really. I mean.

Right before I got to college I was assigned a book to read. One that all of us fresh-humans were meant to discuss at the outset. And what was it? I want you to guess. I want you to play your brain games. I mean, it's the year 2000 I am talking about. Would they go all 19th century canonical on us? Or post-modern multicultural relativism (i.e. choose a black author based on the color of their skin not on the character of their content). Or post-post-modern-relativism-fuck-it, like Moby Dick? And am I leading you down a blind ally here, forcing you assume fiction when it could have been something else? Some charming little book whereby a popular scientist explains the content and the character of the universe for laypeople without being insulting? Sounds nice, actually. Only that wasn't it. I would be flattered if you were to tell me you actually have a vague sense of anticipation right now, or have actually spent more than ten second trying to figure out the answer to this unimportant question.

So I'll just say.

Even without preceding prejudice, I knew I was fucked when I was expected to arrive at school having read, of all fucking things, Tuesdays With Morrie. A self-help book, and a maudlin one at that. Christ, at least it could have been a useful self-help book, like Here's How To Get Drunk Without Hurting Anyone Or Getting Hurt. I don't think that book exists yet, does it? If not, well, someone should write it. I can't 'cause I still don't have the answer, though, in the end, I only hurt myself, so I guess I'm doing something right, right?

I had to distract myself from what I was going to say to share that pointless tidbit. Though maybe it feeds in somehow. What was I going to say?

The author of the way-aforementioned article is right to point out that the decline in the share of those people studying liberal arts is a problem. That being said, I can't help but feel that the attitude I described way above may prevent students, even, yes, English students, from really benefitting from their contact with Good Ideas and all. Look around at the worlds of the Arts and Letters. You see the vehement dissent? The howls of protest against the world those sTEm graduates are building? Yeah, me neither. I'm guessing most Liberal Arts majors are just status-seekers attached to antiquated notions about where that status should be sought. 

Ouch. I am an asshole and I am going to stop there. Because my torrid belief in Ideas and Principle and all that, well, I have to go bartend right now.

EDIT: A better writer and thinker (not jealousy, self-criticism and objective honesty) on much of what I implied but couldn't articulate and, of course, a whole lot more...


BDR said...

Thanks for the Kind words.

My perspective is blinkered, of course, by the institution I work for - Georgetown made multiple and related horrible financial decisions before the crash and its endowment shrank drastically after the crash, so all of its decisions, from prioritizing those programs that produce the next generation of oligarchs' servants and sergeants to reducing the funding of humanities programs to diminishing the overall value of all degrees by the creation of bullshit programs whose only purpose is revenue streams (and only qualification for acceptance is a cleared personal check) is in the interest of power and profit. Inevitably, that has become the spirit of the place.

Last week the 2017 class of MBA students were on campus for orientation, 250 fucks daydreaming of corporate streamlining their way to mansions and Land Rovers. Georgetown built them a state-of-the-art building four years ago and spends more $$ per student for MBA than any other dept - or so it is campus conventional wisdom.

:-p said...

First off, thank you for the kind. I don't think I have more than a handful or two of readers who don't reach me through your or Simon, so thanks again.

I'm sorry to hear you are frustrated at work at this time. (In)directly apropos, I remember when the crash happened and how many people thought that art and music would come out of the wilderness to offer deep critique because everyone will all be all angry and shit and whatever, and, of course, not. From the top to the bottom, everyone bunkered down. Outside of the moral expectations that you, I presume, and I, have for educational institutions in comparison with all of the other institutions and individuals that make up for society, they really did the same thing as everyone else.

What's so odd to me, the thing I can't get over, is the self-regard of all of these people. I was listening to some aspiring members of the American elite talk at my bar tonight and it's like, not only are you clamoring to become part of the most corrupt and decadent elite this country has ever produced, but you actually think, actually think, that you are going to be performing some public service. Not only are you not going to be doing the public any good, but you are also a bit late in trying to exploit them: they don't have any money left.

It's one thing to aspire to be an oligarch, another to be so self-dulsional as to not understand you are trying to be an oligarch, and still another to be too stupid to realize it's too late.